Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Governor Jindal's war on Public Education and Teachers

Part I Changes in Accountability and School Performance Scores: The ESEA No Child Left Behind proposal sent to the US DOE last week is really a major revision of the Louisiana Accountability System. In my opinion, when combined with the new legislation nullifying tenure, making all professional educators' careers dependent on student test scores, and adding unlimited vouchers and charters, it amounts to accountability on steroids. And just like athletes who misuse steroids to get bigger and stronger, this "miracle" reform plan is likely to produce grotesque and damaging results and side effects.

In addition to setting unscientific and unattainable student achievement goals in a two year period, the ESEA waiver proposal drastically changes the mechanism for calculating school performance scores. (see pages 49 - 61 of the ESEA waiver application). To put it briefly the rating system is changed from a 200 point system to a 150 point system yet the points needed for various letter grades are not reset proportionately. Proportionally the minimum "A" should go from 120 to 90, but the lowest A is set at 100. The new B is 85 to 99.9, the new C is 70 to 84.9, and the new D is 50 to 69.9. The numbers have changed drastically but, not to worry. The Department plans to jury rig the scoring system to end up with just about the same numbers of schools falling in each category of letter grades as with the old system. So this seems to indicate what many suspected all along; that the Department can manipulate the numbers to produce whatever results they choose. For example, there will be a fudge factor in the calculation that will award bonus points for schools that make greater than expected progress with low performing sub groups using the new value added formulas. These are formulas like the Coca-Cola formulas that are kept in a safe that only the statistics gurus at the DOE are allowed to study and adjust.  This whole scheme is a process that looks scientific because of the fancy formulas, but is really pseudo science used to produce a predetermined result. So local school administrators will only know how it works after the results have been determined.

All schools other than A schools will be expected to increase their SPS by 10 points each year (proportionally this would be like 13.3 points on the old system) so that the state can seem to be progressing to 100% proficiency in only two years. This goal will be unattainable for most schools. No one in the field now really knows what sanctions may result from not attaining these goals.

Now lets look at the main thrust of the attack on public education and teachers:
Part II Legislation, MFP, Vouchers and Charters: (See Diane Ravitch's article on the same legislation linked here)
The major campaign against public education began with a drastic change in the MFP last week by the Jindal controlled BESE. According to the new formula, numerous special schools, charters, and voucher schools will now be able to raid the funding from public schools according to the number of students they gain. One major legal concern is that since the private schools will also raid the component of MFP coming from local taxes that the voters may have approved for specific purposes, this may not be allowed by the constitution. Local school Boards along with the LAE and LFT are encouraged to adopt the LSBA resolution to authorize and pursue an immediate legal challenge.

HB 974 and SB 603 which may be heard in the Senate Education Committee in a full day meeting next Thursday, March 15 will be the big push for destruction of job security for all teachers, principals, and even superintendents! When combined with the implementation of the Act 54 evaluation and the accountability changes described above, these bills (they are identical versions of House and Senate bills) will basically make every educators' job dependent on the student achievement of unrealistic academic goals and could demoralize the teaching profession.

The new legislation will immediately eliminate the normal tenure process for any new teachers and nullify tenure for thousands of experienced teachers. Tenure is ended as soon as a teacher gets one ineffective evaluation. Also, the Act 54 evaluation, in the first year of operation, could put thousands teachers on a path to dismissal because of the mandatory 10% failure factor. This number will only grow by thousands each year as the 10% factor is applied again and again. That's because the evaluation plan for teachers described in that ESEA Waiver will mandate that the bottom scoring 10% of  teachers get an evaluation of "ineffective" no matter what local administrators believe about their teachers' effectiveness. This is further complicated by the fact that 66% of  teachers in Louisiana are teaching non-tested subjects. It is not clear if the 10% failure factor will be applied to the teachers of non-tested subjects. No one has figured out a practical and equally rigorous way of applying value added goals to these teachers. But who cares?

The Principal's evaluation will also depend partially on the number of teachers rated "ineffective" and principals will be trapped by a "catch 22" situation. If the principal applies the (COMPASS) in too strict a manner, too many teachers will get "ineffective" and the principal is in trouble. If the principal grades teachers too easy and the value added portion shows up poor or negative for the unique student gains expected of each teacher, then the State Department will send an investigation team out to find out why those teachers are not being properly punished! (I'm just guessing on that part). All indications are that the ACT 54 evaluation will produce many erratic and incorrect teacher evaluation results. How can anyone justify tampering with the job security of professional educators in this frivolous manner? Local school boards will have no more say in these issues than the BESE Board has in dealing with Jindal and White.

My readers are sophisticated intelligent people. You know what will happen if HB 976 and SB 597 (The charter and voucher expansion bills) pass. This will introduce a major conflict between privatization forces and local school boards. The parent trigger provision allows any charter group to attack a low performing school with a petition drive among parents, bypassing local school boards. But the most dangerous provisions are those that will allow BESE to approve new charters and new voucher schools to spring up and cherry pick students from most local school systems to set up schools that have a performance advantage over local public schools. They will also dump out all their low performers to re-enter public schools. This is just like how the New York Yankees used to guarantee success by buying the best talent. All of this will raid the local MFP. In addition, since the charters and private schools do not have to participate in the teacher retirement system, local school boards will be mandated to pay an even greater contribution to the retirement system to offset the loss of employees. (they are now mandated to pay 25% contribution for each employee)

Educators, this is nothing less than an all out attack on public education and the many dedicated educators who have devoted their lives to the welfare  of children. It makes what happened last year in Wisconsin to public education look like childsplay! And what's sad is the Governor's strategists have calculated that the teaching profession in Louisiana is too beat down to fight back! If educators do not go to the capitol on March 15 to tell our legislators how we know this will damage the education of children and ruin many educators' careers we will be partly responsible for the demise of public education in Louisiana.

I will immediately update the information in this blog when we find out more about the legislative agenda for March 15. Please stay informed and be willing to act on a moment's notice.


Anonymous said...

With Governor Jindal's propaganda about bad teachers, it would serve us well to meet at the Capital on Sunday, March 11th instead of taking a school day to voice our opposition. When we show we are willing to take a day away from our families to protest this unfair legislation, it will dismantle his response that we selfishly skipped school to protest.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a bit reactionary on your part. The schools are failing, and bad teachers just sit there and continue the cycle of failure.

SCHOOL CHOICE! Help us save our kids from the dummies and the bad teachers!

Michael Deshotels said...

To anonymous who suggested a demonstration at the capitol on Sunday March 11, I believe there is not enough time to organize this. The reason I am asking educators to take a personal day to attend on the 15 is that part of the Governor's reform package is expected to be introduced in the Senate Education Committee on that day. This is the first opportunity for ordinary citizens to testify and you can bet that the big business lobby will be there in force.

Anngie said...

Florida is taking the war to the people, hanging out teachers with unverified accusations for public ridicule.

Anonymous said...

In response to the anonymous who said...
"I think this is a bit reactionary on your part. The schools are failing, and bad teachers just sit there and continue the cycle of failure.

SCHOOL CHOICE! Help us save our kids from the dummies and the bad teachers!"

I am a public school teacher, and it appears from your comment you have done very little research regarding this topic. The dummies are the uninformed people at the Capitol who know very little about child development and education. For starters, the government officials were the first to fail public education. It all started with grading schools based on student test scores. This process of evaluation dismisses the environment and background from which each child comes from on a day-to-day basis. Is it really fair to expect a child who has been prostituting for their mother's drugs all night, to come in bright and early and produce high results on a standardized test? In turn, can you label that child's teacher ineffective because the child produces low test scores? I teach at school that has a high rating, but there may be a day when I am teaching a child who comes from a home life that has had a negative impact their learning. I also believe this system for evaluating teachers is completely unfair. What about the teachers in early childhood? How will they be evaluated as effective or ineffective? Will we begin giving kindergartners a test like the iLEAP? I would also like to add that there are over 300,000 students who qualify for the "voucher", your child included. Of that 300,000, it is possible that a mere 5,000 will be provided with the funding. Will your family be included? Chances are slim. So before you began lashing out at public school teachers, do your research and think if this really is what is best for your child. The Jindal Package will be the end of free, Public Education in the state of Louisiana.

Anonymous said...

I think we need a commercial explaining exactly what type of clientele the public schools will be servicing if all the capable learners are in Charter and private schools. Would anyone want to take a chance on their child not getting into or getting booted out one of the Charter schools and have to attend the New Public school that is full of behavior problems and slower learners that could not get into the charter schools?

Anonymous said...

I see charter schools as an opportunity to segregate schools not by race but by ability. Charter schools hold the right to adopt policy on maintaining enrollment. If your child gets in trouble a few times, they get kicked out and can attend the nearest regular public school. I am a public school teacher and my question has always been the same: "What is Jindal's plan for holding families accountable for student learning?" I believe the government is wrong for claiming there are so many "bad teachers" when the teachers have very little say so in what is going on in the world of education. The people making the laws are NOT educators, but as always the teachers are once again the "whipping boy" for bad legislation. If there are bad teachers in a school, it is the principal's responsibility as instructional leader to professionally develop that teacher or relieve them of their responsibilities. Tenured teachers can be let go if the proper protocol is followed.
I work all day, bring work home with me, work on the weekends, and lose sleep worrying about my students. I'm not real happy that I am being painted with the same brush as every other teacher in the state. The majority are dedicated to their profession. Why else would they work so hard for so little pay? I say we shift some responsibility back to families. Tack some monetary penalties or jail time for parents on high unexcused absences. Consider student performance and attendance on applications for government assistance and see how fast things change. In the meantime, we will keep teaching your sweet children, collecting our meager salary, and stand in line for our next whipping.

Anonymous said...

A teacher can teach ALL DAY AND HALF THE NIGHT...if the child refuses to learn what is the teacher to do???? and besides YOU ALL VOTED FOR JINDAL SO SHUT UP AND LIVE WITH YOUR ACTIONS.

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